Richard III: Taffety Punk’s Bootleg Shakespeare

Kimberly Gilbert as Richard III. Photo by Brittany Diliberto.

Bootleg Shakespeare is not your typical night at the theater: The actors show up on the day of the performance with only their lines memorized; after a few hours of rehearsals, the audience arrives.

It’s a summer theater tradition for Washington’s Taffety Punk Theatre Company, which chooses a different Shakespeare play each time. This summer’s play is Richard III, wrapping up a story that began in 2016 with Henry VI, Part 1. The free, one-night performance takes place at the Folger on Saturday, July 27.

We did a quick Q&A with Kimberly Gilbert, who is playing the title role.

Taffety Punk has been working up to Richard III by performing the Henry VI trilogy over the past three summers. How has this building anticipation affected your approach to preparing for your role?

It’s helped me see Richard as flesh and bone human, as opposed to a comic book villain.

Can you give us your quick take on what happened in Henry VI Parts 1, 2 & 3?

Ineffectual child king coming-of-age in a seriously dysfunctional household with terrible neighbors.

Is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to in Richard III?

The tent speech right after he’s visited by the ghosts. I am super stoked to see what will happen in the moment.

Act IV, Scene 2 is immensely satisfying because Richard barely has his seat on that throne and the crown on his head before it all starts to crumble around him. Deeelish.

I’m excited to say his final line: “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”

What’s been the most memorable performance of Richard III you’ve witnessed, and what made it so memorable?

I’ve only seen two, but Wallace Acton at Shakespeare Theater Company in 2003 was awesome, because he got to do Richard in the Henry VI plays prior to Richard III, which inspired me to do this craziness.

Where do you think Richard ranks among Shakespeare’s villains?

He’s the one who has the fullest, most cathartic journey. I believe he’s the villain that comes closest to a being tragic character, like Lear or Hamlet, more than any other of the baddies.

 What’s your favorite line right now?

“I would to God my heart were flint, like Edward’s,
Or Edward’s soft and pitiful, like mine.
I am too childish-foolish for this world.” (I, 3, 144)


⇒ Read: Staging Shakespeare in a Day

⇒ Read: Taffety Punk and Bootleg Shakespeare: Henry VI, Part 3

⇒ Listen: Punk Shakespeare with Taffety Punk

⇒ Listen: In Search of the Real Richard III

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